Cloud vs Fog at #TFD19

Tech Field Day #19 happened the last week of June, 2019, and it has taken me a full two months to come to grips with one of the presenting sponsors.  Now, to be fair, it’s totally not that company’s fault, this fault is 100% on me.  As you read through this post, keep this in mind.  Also, if you are a wireless-centric person who is less concerned about everything else in the technical world, punch out now.

The company in question happens to be VMware.

When I first saw the presenting sponsors for #TFD19, and the other delegates, VMware was the primary impetus for my blog post about my trepidation in attending #TFD19.  Among the 12 delegates, there were at least 4 vExperts and 3 others who are “enthusiasts” of virtualization and of “The Cloud.”  The first time I head about a virtual network switch I threw my hands in the air and walked out of the room.  So on the last day of #TFD19 we loaded up in the limo for the drive to the VMware campus, looking forward to 4 hours of presentations from what I am going to call the 800 pound gorilla in the on premises virtualization world.

The Good Stuff

Now, if you have made it all the way to this point in this blog, I will do you the favor of providing links to things that will make more sense than my amateur take on what I saw.  After the links I will try to surmise what I experienced for my fellow amateur virtualization folks.

All of the preceding links will give you expert insights, if not the actual presentations in the first link, of the what was presented that day.  The following insights are not from an expert, not even an expert in cloudy things on the Twitter.

Before spending the week with some highly intelligent delegates at #TFD19, I always referred to our on premises virtual environment as “The Fog.”  It’s like the cloud, but closer to where I sit on the ground, it generally causes us confusion and we get lost in it all the time.

You know, fog.

We also have off premises virtual environments that we called the cloud so we had to come up with a name to differentiate which cloud we were talking about, hence the new term not usually used in vExpert circles.  The first thing I learned is no one else calls their on premises virutal environment “the fog”, the correct term is “multi-cloud.”  Personally, it’s virtual stuff so how technically correct do I have to be?  I’ll stick with the fog.

Now, being the noob in the room was an interesting experience.  What I can say is everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is really passionate about virtualization.  Most of the week was centered about the virtual concept, so this wasn’t a surprise to me.  Watching the folks from VMware and the vExperts in the room go back and forth about different topics was impressive, if not boring at times (I didn’t understand it all, maybe you will) but I want to focus on 2 things that stuck out to me then, and still stick out to me 2 months later.

Focus Item #1

Not to pick on any one individual, but the first item I want to focus on is the presentation by John Dias about VMware Intelligent Troubleshooting with vRealize Operations.  John is a very smart guy, very knowledgeable about everything he presented on, and in this presentation, they have a good concept.  What hit me the most was the disparity between the title of the presentation and the actual delivery on the “service.”  When I read the topic I thought I was going to see something similar to another product I know about from a different vendor familiar in the wireless world, Mist Systems, a Juniper Company.

What I saw wasn’t the Mist offering of Marvis.  What struck me is Mist is based in Cupertino, CA and VMware is based in Palo Alto, CA, only 13 miles apart.  16 minute drive but it seemed to me as being years apart.

My personal opinion, which several of us brought up in that section, was that the tool was providing access to data, but the information and intelligence was still being provided by the person sitting at the keyboard.  Change that person and the “Intelligent Troubleshooting” transfer isn’t guaranteed.  I would love to see VMware improve that functionality to something along the lines of Marvis.

Now, not to pile on John or VMware, I see wireless focused companies are just now fully embracing the virtual world so I’m not only pointing the finger one way.  At that point in time I just found the disparity in what I saw at #TFD19 and #MFD3/#MFD4 interesting.  Now, I’m not saying that VMware needs to go buy Mist away from Juniper, but I would actually encourage companies in Silicon Valley to pay attention to what other vendors are doing, especially if it’s in areas that aren’t totally in their wheelhouse.

Focus Item #2

Of everything I saw and learned at #TFD19, this was probably the most surprising aspect.  VMware was scheduled to present from 09:30 to 14:00, meaning that we would hopefully get some lunch somewhere in there.  Don’t worry, we got lunch.

Now, my fear is that personally, after I eat lunch, my ability to concentrate and focus wanes for a little bit and I’m not running at peak efficiency.  After a couple of hours of cloud/virtual stuff, we went straight from lunch into more cloud/virtual stuff.  I’m not going to lie, I was both scared and dreading what my afternoon was going to be like.  Never fear, enter Cody De Arkland.

Cody is a “Really Tall Staff Technical Marketing Architect” for VMware (seriously, that’s what it says on his Twitter page) and a first time presenter at any Tech Field Day event.  Now, I can confirm that he is really tall, and I can confirm that Cody should have been presenting for a long time, just not this time.  Cody talked about a ton of stuff that I didn’t understand, and a few things that I did, but it was the way he presented!  I didn’t care anymore that I didn’t understand, he actually got me excited about what he was working on!  You should really go take a look at the four different segments he presented on, it’s well worth your time, for both vExpert and vNoob alike.

My biggest takeaway from everything Cody said (which isn’t saying much actually) was this really cool website that VMware has provided, for free, called their “Hands On Learning” or HOL Online Labs.  I was so excited by that website that when I got back to the hotel I registered and started working through some of the labs.  I’m embarrased to admit that I haven’t done much more than that, but I highly encourage anyone who is interested in cloud automation services to check out the website and watch Cody present.  He is a great asset to VMWare, and I really hope what he presented continues to be nurtured and delivered as a product.

I also encourage you to read the blogs I linked to earlier about others take on the subject.

So What About VMware?

VMware, as near as I can tell, is still the 800 pound gorilla in the on premises virtualization market.  Some of what I saw was the same as other presenting sponsors spoke about, so I think the direction is pretty well defined.  Are they perfect? No, but if there is one thing that being a Tech Field Day delegate has taught me is that no company is.

I’m actually the last person who should be giving any final parting wisdom on a company that I barely understand their product, so I won’t.  The one thing that I can leave you with is after all the presentations, we took a little walk, and in fact, confirm that it really is “turtles all the way down.”


Look it up, I’m not doing ALL the work for you!